The Devils host the Buffalo Sabres in a Saturday matinee.
The New Jersey Devils have looked nothing short of great since returning to play after a COVID-19 outbreak put their season on a lengthy pause.
They’re getting their important players like MacKenzie Blackwood, new captain Nico Hischier, Sami Vatanen, and Travis Zajac back, but the kids and guys who haven’t gotten much playing time are stepping up.
They’re undefeated since returning to play, and will be facing a struggling, rusty Buffalo Sabres team in a weekend matinee. Were the Devils able to keep the winning streak going?
1st period: Offense, please
Surprisingly, this might have been the worst period of hockey the Devils have played since resuming their season. They were stuck in their own zone on multiple occasions and couldn’t get much offense going.
These struggles, coupled with New Jersey’s inadequacy on faceoffs, resulted in the Devils falling behind a goal.
The Devils were given two power plays during the period and although the first was bad, they looked much better on the second and were able to create several scoring chances.
2nd period: Win a faceoff, for goodness’ sake!
The Devils looked much better to start the second and were generating more offensive chances. However, it’s crucial that they dedicate more time in practice to faceoffs. This issue led to the Sabres scoring yet another goal in the second.
The Sabres had been noticeable in the blocked shots department, and the second period was no different.
The Sabres have the fifth-best power play in the league and the Devils the worst penalty kill for a reason. They were able to make this a 3-0 game on the man-advantage. The Devils will have their work cut out for them heading into the third.
3rd period: Good effort, but it’s not enough
The Devils came out with a purpose. As the Devils’ broadcasting team noted, the man with the hot hand got things started for them. Kyle Palmieri continues to show off his scoring ability and got the Devils on the board just forty seconds into the period.
The Devils were quiet for a while after, but then came a crucial power play with under four minutes left.
Head coach Lindy Ruff made the decision to pull Blackwood on the man-advantage, and that paid off. P.K. Subban got his team within one with an absolute snipe.
The Devils played much better hockey in the third. However, they were nowhere to be found in the first forty minutes, and that led to the loss. The Devils were due a bad game and just didn’t really have it today.
A desperate Sabres team were the better team and their great defense and goaltending made this an even more difficult affair for the Devils.
Key Moment: Palmieri stays hot
The key moment of the game was Palmieri’s goal that got the Devils on the board and helped ignite the offense.
Palmieri has gotten hot at the right moment, especially after a slow start to the season, and has reclaimed his spot as one of the leaders of this offense.
Player of the game: Jesper Bratt
Jesper Bratt was New Jersey’s best player on the ice and showed his importance as a top forward on this team. In this game, he showed how much he’s improved defensively and how effective he can be as a two-way forward.
His numbers: 18:45 TOI, one assist, 0.31 iXG (team-high), 0.32 xGF, 0.21 xGA, 0 GA, 72.41 CF% (team-high), and 0.83 defensive score.
Numbers are courtesy of hockeystatcards.com and Natural Stat Trick.